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Richard Wright Early Works: Lawd Today!, Uncle Tom's Children & Native Son
Category->Ethnic Studies
Richard Wright Early Works: Lawd Today!, Uncle Tom's Children & Native Son

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By Richard Wright. A collection of three novellas by Richard Wright.

Native Son exploded on the American literary scene in 1940. The story of Bigger Thomas, a young black man living in the raw, noisy, crowded slums of Chicago's South Side, captured the hopes and yearnings, the pain and rage of black Americans with an unprecedented intensity and vividness. The text printed in this volume restores the changes and cuts—including the replacement of an entire scene—that Wright was forced to make by book club editors who feared offending their readers. The unexpurgated version of Wright's electrifying novel shows his determination to write honestly about his controversial protagonist. As he wrote in the essay "How 'Bigger' Was Born," which accompanies the novel: "I became convinced that if I did not write Bigger as I saw and felt him, I'd be acting out of fear."

 

This volume also contains Wright's first novel, Lawd Today!, published posthumously in 1963, and his collection of stories, Uncle Tom's Children, which appeared in 1938. Lawd Today! interweaves news bulletins, songs, exuberant wordplay, and scenes of confrontation and celebration into a kaleidoscopic chronicle of the events of one day—February 12—in the life of a black Chicago postal worker. The text for this edition reinstates Wright's stylistic experiments, and the novel emerges as a far livelier work of the imagination.

 

Uncle Tom's Children first brought Wright to national attention when it received the Story prize for the best work submitted to the Federal Writers' Project. The characters in these tales struggle to survive the cruelty of racism in the South, as Wright asks "what quality of will must a Negro possess to live and die with dignity in a country that denied his humanity." All five stories Wright included in the 1940 second edition are published in this volume, along with his sardonic autobiographical essay "The Ethics of Living Jim Crow."

 

Richard Wright was "forged in injustice as a sword is forged," wrote Ernest Hemingway. With passionate honesty and courage, he confronted the terrible effects of prejudice and intolerance and created works that explore the deepest conflicts of the human heart.

 

About the Author

Richard Wright won international renown for his powerful and visceral depiction of the black experience. He stands today alongside such African-American luminaries as Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison, and two of his novels, Native Son and Black Boy, are required reading in high schools and colleges across the nation. He died in 1960.

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